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GE 44-Ton Switcher

Published: January 20, 2024

By: Adam Burns

General Electric's 44-tonner was the builder's most well-known in its early line of industrial switchers with more than 400 produced between 1940-1957.

This compact workhorse was originally designed to comply with the "90,000 Pound Rule" of the time, which exempted railroads from requiring a full-time fireman for any locomotive weighing less than 45 tons.

This model was powered by two Caterpillar D17000 V8 diesel engines, providing a top speed of 35 mph. Despite its small size, the 44-tonner was known for its robust performance and durability and was often used for light-duty switching and yard work.

A total of 373 units were produced in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico making it a successful model for General Electric.  In addition, another 60 were built for the military and 43 more exported to other countries.

Its historic impact can still be seen today, with several units preserved in museums and others continuing to operate in industrial and shortline service.

Photos

91982471641g18501010969078.jpgMiddletown & New Jersey 44-tonner #2 and its crew pose for a photo at the railroad's little engine house in Middletown, New York; January, 1977. Photographer unknown. American-Rails.com collection.

Early Switchers

GE's involvement with the railroad industry dates back to the 19th century and it helped construct very early diesel switchers.  In fact, the company is credited - alongside Ingersoll-Rand and Alco - in developing "the first commercial diesel-electic locomotive in the United States" in Jay Street Connecting boxcab #4 in October, 1918.

Long before the company began producing a successful line of road-switchers it had built an equally sucessful line of small switchers, aimed at both industrial and general railroad applications.

In his book, "Critters, Dinkys & Centercabs," author Jay Reed notes GE's first was the 25-ton model in 1938.  Ultimately, the company built a wide-range of such locomotives in both end-cab and center-cab configurations ranging from 4 tons to 144 tons.

The 44-ton was, without question, its most successful and could be found in all types of service - from industrial settings to large Class 1 carriers.  They proved a perfect little locomotive for almost anything.

Development

As Brian Solomon notes in his book, "GE Locomotives," the 44-tonner was developed specifically to avoid the "90,000 Pound Rule," part of a 1937 labor agreement aimed at protecting the firemen's job with any diesel weighing at least 45 tons.

The switcher featured a symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing carbody while also providing ruggedness and reliability.  The centercab carbody sported a raised cab with a tapered hood at each end. 

In his book, "Diesel Locomotives: Cyclopedia - Volume 2," author Bob Hayden notes their B-B trucks were an all-welded design, somewhat unique as most were produced from castings.

They were 33 feet, 5 inches long with the original variants utilizing a pair of Caterpillar D-17000 V-8 engines.  These were initially rated at 150 hp each and were later upgraded to as much as 190 hp each.

In addition, Louis Marre notes in his book, "Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years," ten 44-tonners were equipped with a pair of Buda 6DH1742 engines capable of producing 205 horsepower each.

Finally, the Phase IV and Phase V switchers boasted 400 horsepower.  Of the 373 44-tonners produced in North America and Mexico, the Pennsylvania wound up with the largest fleet totaling 46 units.

Reception

Interestingly, GE had always intended these switchers to operate in general common-carrier service merely by how they were designed. 

However, numerous private industries snapped up the model thanks to its modest horsepower, generally light weight, rugged traction motors, and short wheelbase allowing it to negotiate tight clearances and track curvature with a radius of 50 feet.

EWfTvNWWAAsOKOL.jpgAlexander Railroad 44-tonner #3 heads east through Stony Point, NC with six boxcars and two loads of pulpwood bound for the Southern Railway interchange in Statesville during a fall afternoon in the 1960's. The little short line remains active today. Warren Calloway photo.

Phases

During its sixteen year production run, the switcher went through a number of changes and upgrades.  The very first 44-tonner produced was Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #9103, delivered to the railroad on September 4, 1940.

Phase I

The Phase I group included 79 locomotives built through October, 1942.  They included radiator louvers situated near the end of both hoods with access ladder centered over the forward left truck.

Phase II

These included a total of 43 units built between December, 1942 and May, 1943.  GE made two notable changes; the radiator shutters were moved to the hood ends and access ladders located along all four corners of the frame.

Phase III

A total of 34 locomotives were produced in this particular phase between November, 1943 and June, 1945.  This version is a bit harder to differentiate; its particular nuances included sets of "French doors" on the 'long' hoods rather than single-panel access doors.  In addition, the access doors under the cab are larger.

Phase IV

This constituted the largest single group totaling 171 units in all.  Production overlapped Phase III examples, running from March, 1945 through September, 1951. 

Their single variation was the small rectangular air intake at the top of the hood.   Finally, 62 in the series were rated at 400 horsepower instead of the then-standard 380 horsepower.

Phase V

This group was produced between November, 1951 and October, 1956 totaling 43 units.  They featured two notable distinctions, rectangular instead of rounded headlight casings and stiffening ridges stamped into the hood doors.

Of note was the final four examples in this series which were equipped with six-cylinder, Caterpillar model 342 engines capable of producing 200 horsepower each.  The final example was Dansville & Mount Morris #1, completed in October, 1956.

Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Serial Number Completion Date
Alexander Railroad 2 1 28502 7/1946
Almanor Railroad 106 1 28340 12/1946
Amador Central 8 1 27980 5/1945
Arcade & Attica 110 1 12947 6/1941
Arcade & Attica 111 1 28346 4/1947
Arkansas Valley 92, 93 2 12912, 12913 9/1940
Aroostook Valley 10, 11 2 27799, 27800 6/1945
Aroostook Valley 12 1 30246 9/1949
Santa Fe 460, 461 2 15760, 15761 12/1942
Santa Fe 462 1 17927 7/1943
Santa Fe 463 - 468 6 18151 - 18156 12/1943
Atlantic & East Carolina 7 1 15766 2/1943
Atlantic & East Carolina 8 1 18145 11/1943
Baltimore & Ohio 19, 20 2 30470, 30471 9/1950, 10/1950
Bath & Hammondsport D-1 1 30250 9/1949
Beaumont, Sour Lake & Western (Missouri Pacific) 815 1 13181 1/1942
Birmingham Southeastern 199 1 31229 5/1953
Boston & Maine 110-112 3 12915-12917 11/1940
Boston & Maine 113 1 12943 11/1940
Boston & Maine 114-116 3 13092-13094 7/1941
Boston & Maine 117 1 15036 8/1942
Boston & Maine 118, 119 2 29076, 29974 12/1947, 6/1948
Boyne City Railroad 70 1 30472 9/1950
Calco Chemical Division - American Cyanamid 5 1 28342 2/1947
Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe 101 1 31231 6/1953
Carnegie-Illinois Steel 5 1 17929 7/1943
Carnegie-Illinois Steel 443 1 15755 12/1942
Central California Traction 25 1 28339 12/1946
Central California Traction 26 1 28333 11/1946
Central Warehouse Company No Number 1 31115 7/1951
Chattanooga Traction Company 1, 2 2 13014, 13015 4/1941
Chattanooga Traction Company 3 1 18159 1/1944
Chicago ,Burlington & Quincy 9103 1 12908 9/1940
Chicago ,Burlington & Quincy 9104-9107 4 12949-12952 2/1941-3/1941
Milwaukee Road 1690 1 12909 9/1940
Milwaukee Road 1700, 1701 2 15039, 15040 11/1941
Colorado Fuel & Iron (36" Gauge) 1 1 12953 10/1940
Colorado Fuel & Iron (36" Gauge) 2 1 29196 6/1947
Colorado Fuel & Iron [36" Gauge] 21, 22 2 32970, 32971 5/1957
Coudersport & Port Allegheny D-1 1 28503 8/1946
Coudersport & Port Allegheny D-2 1 30850 12/1950
Dansville & Mount Morris 1 1 32664 10/1956
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 51-53 3 29986-29988 10/1948-11/1948
Denver & Rio Grande Western 38 1 13096 8/1941
Denver & Rio Grande Western 39 1 15123 9/1942
Denver & Rio Grande Western 40-43 4 15127 - 15130 9/1942-10/1942
Electric Energy, Inc. 1-3 3 31218-31220 11/1951
Erie 26 1 28504 9/1946
Fernwood, Columbia & Gulf D-1 - D-3 3 18195 - 18197 3-4/1945
Fernwood, Columbia & Gulf D-4 1 28347 4/1947
Fibreboard Products, Inc. 1 1 29071 10/1947
General Electric (Demonstrator) 1950 1 30257 3/1950
Grafton & Upton 9, 10 2 28497, 28498 7/1946
Granite City Steel 200 1 15763 12/1942
Great Northern 5200, 5201 2 12910, 12911 9/1940
Hampton & Branchville 42, 43 2 31111, 31112 6/1951
Hartwell Railway 2 1 30253 2/1950
Helena Southwestern 300 1 29985 10/1948
High Point, Thomasville & Denton 101 1 18180 10/1944
Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad 700, 701 2 29070, 29073 11/1947
Illinois Central 9275 1 29072 11/1947
International-Great Northern (Missouri Pacific) 812 1 13178 1/1942
Kansas City Power & Light 5 1 27797 6/1945
Kansas City Power & Light 6 1 30248 9/1949
Laurinburg & Southern 100 1 28495 6/1946
Lehigh Valley 60-62 3 15033-15035 12/1941, 2/1942, 8/1942
Long Island Rail Road 400 1 30854 12/1950
Lowville & Beaver River 1947 1 28345 4/1947
Maine Central 11 1 13095 9/1941
Maine Central 12 1 15037 8/1942
Maine Central 13-15 3 27973-27975 5/1945
Maine Central 16 1 28488 5/1945
Maine Central 17 1 28348 6/1947
Manistee & Northeastern 1 1 28501 8/1946
Middletown & Unionville 1 1 28487 4/1946
Minneapolis & St. Louis D-149 1 29994 11/1948
Minneapolis & St. Louis D-742 1 15122 9/1942
Minneapolis & St. Louis D-842 1 15124 8/1942
Minneapolis St. Paul & Soo Ste. Marie (Soo Line) 330 1 12944 6/1941
Mississippi Export 44 1 12914 10/1940
Mississippi Export 45 1 12945 12/1940
Missouri & Illinois Bridge & Belt 100 1 15024 8/1941
Missouri Pacific 800, 801 2 12974, 12975 2/1941
Missouri Pacific 811 1 13177 1/1942
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis 100-103 4 30460-30463 6/1950-7/1950
Nelson & Albermarle Railroad 1 1 30856 1/1951
New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate Road) 90 1 30249 9/1949
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0800 1 12946 1/1941
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0801, 0802 2 13097, 13101 9/1941
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0803-0805 3 13025 - 13027 11/1941
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0806 1 13100 12/1941
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0807-0811 5 18184 - 18188 2-3/1945
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0812-0815 4 18190-18193 3/1945
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0816 1 27794 6/1945
New York, New Haven & Hartford 0817, 0818 2 29080, 29081 12/1947
New York, Ontario & Western 101-105 5 15028-15032 12/1941-1/1942
Northern Pacific 98 1 28496 6/1946
Northern Pacific 99 1 15765 3/1943
Omaha, Lincoln & Beatrice 101 1 30849 12/1950
Pacific Electric Railway 1650, 1651 2 17921, 17926 6/1943
Pacific Electric Railway 1652-1654 3 18181-18183 10/1944
Pennsylvania Railroad 9312, 9313 2 29992, 29993 3/1949, 2/1949
Pennsylvania Railroad 9314-9324 11 30132-30142 3/1949-5/1949
Pennsylvania Railroad 9325 - 9327 3 29077-29079 11/1947
Pennsylvania Railroad 9328-9340 13 29961-29973 6/1948-10/1948
Pennsylvania Railroad 9341-9349 9 29975-29983 10/1948-12/1948
Pennsylvania Railroad 9350-9353 4 30143-30146 5/1949
Pennsylvania Railroad 9354-9356 3 30243-30245 8/1949
Pennsylvania Railroad 9357 1 30254 2/1950
Petaluma & Santa Rosa 1 1 28338 12/1946
Pine Flat Dam Contractors 2850, 2851 2 30464, 30465 8/1950
Pine Flat Dam Contractors 2852 1 30848 12/1950
Pine Flat Dam Contractors 2853 1 30473 9/1950
Point Comfort & Northern 2 1 29990 11/1948
Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company 7 1 28343 3/1947
Quincy Railroad 3 1 27819 9/1945
St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (Missouri Pacific) 813, 814 2 13179, 13180 2/1942, 1/1942
St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) 4, 5 2 17922, 17923 6/1943
St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) 6 1 17936 8/1943
St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) 7, 8 2 18157, 18158 1/1944
St. Paul Union Depot 441 1 12948 5/1941
Sacramento Northern 142, 143 2 28331, 28332 11/1946
Sacramento Northern 144-146 3 28334-28336 11/1946
San Francisco & Napa Valley 30, 40 2 15120, 15121 4/1942
San Francisco & Napa Valley 50 1 17928 8/1943
Sheffield Steel 5 1 27560 1/1944
Sheffield Steel 6 1 18178 3/1944
Sheffield Steel 7 1 29984 9/1948
Sheffield Steel 8 1 30247 9/1949
Sheffield Steel 9 1 30474 10/1950
Skaneateles Short Line Railroad 6 1 30847 12/1950
Southern Pacific 1900-1902 3 15114-15116 8/1942
Southern Railway 1950-1953 4 27822-27825 9/1945
Alabama Great Southern (Southern) 6520 1 27826 10/1945
Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific (Southern) 6010 1 27828 10/1945
New Orleans & North Eastern (Southern) 6840 1 27827 10/1945
South Carolina State Port Authority 101 1 29989 1/1949
South Carolina State Port Authority 102 1 31113 6/1951
Springfield Suburban Railroad 500, 511 2 28499, 28500 8/1946
Suncook Valley Railroad 3 1 31114 7/1951
Swift & Company (Phosphate Rock Mine) 400 1 27798 6/1945
Tidewater Southern 135 1 28337 11/1946
Union Freight Railroad 1-5 5 28490-28494 6/1946
Union Pacific DS1399 1 28344 3/1947
Upper Merion & Plymouth 56 1 30252 2/1950
Upper Merion & Plymouth 57 1 30855 12/1950
Upper Merion & Plymouth 58 1 31116 7/1951
Upper Merion & Plymouth 59 1 31232 6/1952
Visalia Electric Railway 501, 502 2 27817, 27818 8/1945
Washington & Old Dominion 47 1 15041 12/1941
Washington & Old Dominion 48, 49 2 15042, 15043 8/1942
Western Maryland 75, 76 2 17930, 17935 7, 8/1943
Winona Railroad 440, 441 2 27820, 27821 8/1945

Canada

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Serial Number Completion Date
Canada & Gulf Terminal 355 1 29991 12/1948
Canadian National 3-5 3 32654-32656 10/1956
Canadian National 7751, 7752 2 28349, 28350 281-4456 5/1947
Greater Winnipeg Water District 100 1 28486 4/1946
Greater Winnipeg Water District 101 1 30251 9/1949
National Harbor Board (Canada) D-1 1 28489 4/1946
Thurso & Nation Valley 4 1 28485 1/1946

Export

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Serial Number Completion Date
Central Alto Cedro (Cuba) 3 1 31221 11/1951
Central Alto Cedro (Cuba) 3 (2nd) 1 31222 11/1951
Central Patria (Cuba) 1 (2nd) 1 31223 12/1951
F.C. Cubano Hershey (Cuba) 16-18 3 31226-31228 3/1952
United Fruit Sugar Company (Central Boston) - Cuba 123, 124 2 30468, 30469 9/1950
United Fruit Sugar Company (Central Preston) - Cuba 24, 25 2 30466, 30467 9/1950
Central Rio Haina (Dominican Republic) 1 1 31230 4/1952
Sidérurgique de Nord de La France (France) 57, 58 2 31106, 31107 3/1951
Sidérurgique de Nord de La France (France) 59 1 30629 9/1950
Sidérurgique de Nord de La France (France) 60 1 30727 9/1950
Usimor (France) 697 1 32256 8/1954
Bharkra Dam Project (66" Gauge) - India - 3 32067-32069 6-7/1953
Secretarias Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) - Mexico 23022 1 15756 12/1942
Secretarias Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) - Mexico 23023 1 27795 6/1945
Secretarias Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) - Mexico 23024 1 27801 7/1945
Secretarias Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) - Mexico 23025 1 27816 7/1945
Secretarias Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) - Mexico 23026 1 27796 6/1945
Secretarias Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) - Mexico 24400 1 29075 11/1947
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) A11x52 1 28341 2/1947
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) A11x53 1 29074 11/1947
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) 103, 104 2 30255, 30256 3/1950
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) 105 1 31117 8/1951
Stora Kopparberg Iron Mines (Sweden) 10 1 29960 6/1948
Trinidad Government Railways (Trinidad) 54, 55 2 32070, 32071 12/1953
Administración de Ferrocarriles del Estado (Uruguay) 401-403 3 31118-31120 9/1951
Administración de Ferrocarriles del Estado (Uruguay) 404-410 7 32135-32141 4/1954

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production9/1940 (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #9103)
Years Produced9/1940 - 10/1956
EngineD17000 (2)
Engine BuilderCaterpillar
Horsepower350-400
RPM1000
Bore and Stroke5 ¾" x 8"
Cylinders8
Length33' 5"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)13' 3"
Width10' 1"
Weight88,000-89,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity250 Gallons
Air Brake ManufacturerWestinghouse
Air Brake Schedule14EL
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeWelded
Truck Wheelbase6' 10"
Wheel Size33"
Traction Motors733 (4), GE
Primary GeneratorGT-555 (2
Auxiliary GeneratorGMG-140 (2)
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesNo
Gear Ratio11.25:1
Tractive Effort (Starting)26,400 Lbs at 30%
Tractive Effort (Continuous)13,000 Lbs at 12 mph
Top Speed35 mph

Military Variants

The military was a big buyer of diesel switchers from nearly all of the major manufacturers.  The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army both acquired 44-tonners.  The former's were Phase V examples and included fourteen units that were two feet shorter to meet loading limits.

Finally, the latter's were even more interesting.  The Army acquired 46 examples with a lower cab to meet height clearances in foreign countries.  They also sported an oversized equipment box near the cab and typical foreign components like buffers and screw couplings.  Interestingly, they weighed in at 45 tons despite their "44 ton" rating.

Sources

  • Hayden, Bob. Diesel Locomotives: Cyclopedia, Volume 2 (Model Railroader). Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1980.
  • General Electric, Apparatus Department. 380-HP, 44-Ton Diesel Electric Railroad Locomotive: For Yard Switching and Road Service. Schenectady: 1947.
  • Marre, Louis A. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years, A Guide To Diesels Built Before 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • Rail Heritage Publications.  Early Diesel-Electric and Electric Locomotives.  Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1983.
  • Reed, Jay.  Critters, Dinkys & Centercabs.  Whittier: Rio Hondo, 2000.
  • Solomon, Brian. GE Locomotives: 110 Years Of General Electric Motive Power. St. Paul: MBI Publishing, 2003.

SteamLocomotive.com

Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!